By SCOTT BABA
Art and Entertainment Editor
Onstage Theater Company premiered its last play of the season at the Campbell Theater on Friday with “The Fitting Room,” a vibrant and ambitious work by local playwright Kathryn G. McCarty.
“The Fitting Room” is an intriguing piece of theater, and feels almost experimental in nature. It isn’t so much a single cohesive tale as it is a lightning-fast succession of single-act stories all set in the same place, the ladies fitting room of a trendy department store.
The play happens in real time with no scene breaks (except, arguably, the intermission). Over the course of it, characters come and go, try on different clothes, chat with their friends and with strangers and themselves, and basically live their lives – at least that slim portion of it that happens in a changing room.
With a couple of exceptions, the characters and their stories don’t appear more than once (though the actors do, with most of them playing four or five different characters). Each episode stands alone, and by and large are compelling enough to hold their own. The characters talk about – and sometimes live through – the problems they’re dealing with, the little tragedies that have recently befallen them, and the big things they’re planning.
Throughout the play, each little vignette that happens in the fitting room feel natural, a true slice of life.
Some of the stories are cute, like the father taking his daughter shopping for her first prom dress.
Others are poignant, like the story of the woman and her gay best friend, discussing all the people they knew who they’ve lost to AIDS.
Many aren’t even really stories, but just fun little moments, like the girl trying to force herself into a pair of pants that clealry don’t fit.
Most are edged with a bright sense of humor, and if any particular scene fails to land, the jokes and gags keep the momentum going.
McCarty, who also co-directed the production with Helen Means, originally wrote the play two decades ago. She said that her original inspiration for the play was her own experiences.
“Everything I write, no matter what the subject matter, I tend to pick something from my own life,” McCarty said, “something that bothers me or things that I want to see changed.”
McCarty added that the transformative nature of the fitting room made it an ideal setting to explore different facets of peoples lives.
“I have a thing about clothes, which I think most women do,” she said, “putting them on, changing them, trying this or that – I’m just fascinated by them, and how they change people and make people act.”
Rhonda Bowen plays Barbera, one of the few reoccuring characters, a woman using retail therapy to numb the pain of a recent life trauma. Bowen said that she enjoyed the play, and having the McCarty as one of the directors.
“I think Kathryn’s done a wonderful job,” Bowen said. “It’s been really wonderful to have the playwright also directing because it really adds something. She takes things from our characterizations and builds on it and develops it further.”
Hayley Kennen plays five different characters in the play, and said that there was an authenticity that shone through in a way that more traditional plays lacked.
“I really like it. It’s something I’ve never seen before,” Cannon said. “It’s very realistic, because it does feel like the audience is looking through a glass and looking into a fitting room to see kind of what goes on.”
Evelyn Owens also plays a number of different characters, and said that ultimately the structure of the play informed the central theme of it.
“It’s about life,” Owen said. “A lot of these character are talking about life issues in the dressing room and kind of figuring things out, wanting their friends input, wondering why the guy doesn’t call her. So just kind of all of these things that we have in our everyday life come together on the stage.”
Come see “The Fitting Room” for a fun, diverse, thoughtful mix of stories.